Friday, 2 July 2010

Hitkrant, January 1977: All about ABBA – Song Contest brought world fame

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant, published right after one of ABBA’s most successful years in Holland. Note the mix-up of Björn and Benny’s names in the first part of the article...
Is it possible that any other group has gotten more attention in all those music magazines lately than ABBA? After their big breakthrough with ‘Waterloo’ at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, ABBA has rocketed to the heaven of popular music. Effortlessly, success after success was achieved by the Swedish foursome. Well, effortlessly: Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Björn and Benny are working very hard for their success. An important factor in all these worldwide successes is the professional way in which they handle their career.

Meanwhile it’s widely known that the name ABBA is made up of the four initials of the group members: Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid. And to avoid any further misunderstandings: Agnetha is married to Benny and Anni-Frid is Björn’s life partner. These letters also show up in the name of the company that’s looking after all the interests of the group, which is simply called AB. So, again the names of the ABBA members make an appearance, added to the fact that AB is the Swedish abbreviation for Aktiebolaget, the Swedish name for a public limited company. That characterizes ABBA as well: everything fits together, it all adds up...

The beginning
The history of ABBA begins in 1963: Benny Andersson joins the group Hep Stars, at the time the most popular group in Sweden. They were popular to the extent that the scenes at the group’s performances resembled a Beatles concert. This resulted in eight gold records for the Hep Stars. Benny composed four of them. In 1966, Benny met Björn Ulvaeus during a tour and this resulted in writing songs together. Björn had been in the music business since 1963 as well, with a group called the Hootenanny Singers (for that matter, he had been founding several groups since he was eleven years old). It was clear that Benny and Björn clicked and all of their songs became hits.

The ladies
But it wasn’t until Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid (you can call her Frida) Lyngstad joined forces with Björn and Benny that the actual history of ABBA started. Agnetha was already very popular in Sweden at the time, a popularity that began with her record ‘Jag Var Så Kär’ (‘I’m So In Love’) in 1968. When she was fifteen, she already performed in her father’s revues, who was some kind of Swedish René Sleeswijk. Later on, she performed with her own orchestra as well.
Frida – the only non-Swedish member of ABBA, she was born in Narvik, Norway – already had a career as a singer behind her as well when she got in touch with the other three: she already performed at the age of ten and in Sweden she became a well-known television personality, among others in the popular programme Hylands Corner. She had a couple of hits in Sweden as well.

Björn married Agnetha and Benny and Frida got engaged (and they still are). Both gentlemen withdrew from their respective groups and in 1972, the foursome recorded their first single under the name Björn & Benny, Anna & Frida: ‘People Need Love’. The success was so big that it wouldn’t take long for a second record to be released: ‘He Is Your Brother’. But the overwhelming success came with ‘Ring Ring’, that reached the number one spot in the charts of four European countries. This also led to their participation in the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, where they achieved a convincing first place with ‘Waterloo’.

Then it al went very fast. ABBA became an international group and their trademark (the name ABBA with the reversed B, legally registered!) became an institution in many countries. One hit after the other stormed the charts: ‘Honey, Honey’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, ‘So Long’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ all sold millions of copies. ‘Fernando’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ beat those records yet again: the figure of six million copies that were sold of ‘Fernando’ speaks volumes!
And now ABBA is a permanent force in the hit business; during the years, the group’s music has evolved from simple tunes for everybody to music that has its own place among all the forces in pop music, which can be credited to producer and composer Stig Anderson for a large part.

The Swedish group has always had a special place in the hearts of the Dutch people: the Hep Stars already had a hit in our country with ‘Sunny Girl’, while ‘Ring Ring’ (at the time credited to Björn & Benny, Anna & Frida) made it into the top ten. All records that were released after that achieved top positions in our national charts and we only have to take a look at the popularity polls and the Top 100 of 1976 to find out how popular ABBA has become in our country. That’s why the Hitkrant trophy that was awarded to them at the ABBA-Hitkrant party on November 19 in The Hague wasn’t in vain!
On February 4, we will finally be able to see and hear them in the Jaap Eden hall in Amsterdam: a one-off concert in Holland, for which the group will interrupt their busy schedule. Because ABBA and Holland simply have a special connection...

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